A Place at the Table


In the last year, I have become a screenwriter. Up until 2015, I was a playwright/poet/novelist/memoirist (published in all genres, not that I intended to self aggrandize, but there it is) who fooled around with screenplays. (Thank you very much to the Streep Writers’ Lab, my sister writers, my mentors…and to the men in my life who also gave great feedback on my very female-centric storytelling.)

My sense of timing is AMAZING. Of course I jump into the most oppressed genre just as a big fight is starting…because that’s what I do. Yay, me! Ohhhmmm for my instinct for drama.

However. At the same time, I’m like, wait. I don’t really want to sit at this table. I might not even want to eat in this restaurant.

What do I mean?

Well, to start, I really only like indie films. And, I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in the star system, in which a very few make millions and the rest of us have to do other jobs. (Wait, just like the rest of America!) I understand that sexual harassment is pretty common (this is hearsay, but I believe it because of…next), and women have to be ridiculously thin, and looks are valued above depth, and stories that challenge contemporary understanding aren’t given a chance because they won’t make billions. Not to mention the pandemic racism, ageism, homophobia….

Why am I supposed to want to sit at this table?

When I was at Sarah Lawrence, I got irritated that the theatre department wasn’t telling stories focused on women, GLBT folks, or people of color. So I created my own event. No one wanted to help at first…oh to live in a business when even at the level of education people are terrified of pissing anyone off. Our event–it became an “our” because people of color started coming out of the woodwork to have an opportunity to be heard–was amazing, meaningful, and so moving. It was also packed.

I get so unhappy trying to get mainstream people to accept me. Because I kind of live to piss people off, or at least to make them think and feel. Meaning, I’m an artist. I want people to SEE. To understand more about other lives, other possibilities, to dream of better, to go deep into longing and heart.

Screenwriters have no rights to their work–once you sell a screenplay, they can rewrite it any way they want.

NOT!

I thought feminism was about having a voice, not about making a sale to the establishment.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to have an impact. I deeply want to help people, to teach and spread equality, justice, the further reaches of consciousness and love.

I’m just not waiting for someone else to open the door and let me in so I can do it.

I’m looking for other ways.

Because as a writer, I really don’t want to sit down with the people jerking everyone around.

I mean, there’s got to be another table. And if not…4 legs and a top. Not rocket science.